Harrison Kim was a teacher at a Forensic Psychiatric Hospital. He spent vacations hiking in the mountains, checking out ghost towns, and wandering in their graveyards. All these experiences gave him interesting story ideas.

Over the past year his stories have appeared in Blue Lake Review, Spank the Carp, October Hill, Bewildering Stories, Café Lit, and others.

He lives and writes out of Victoria, Canada.


by Harrison Kim


He seems to be crashing forever down into a swirling liquid tunnel…and there’s nothing he can do about it. 

At least he had reached out and grabbed that child.

He tumbles over and sees black water rising from the depths. He can make out a dark form moving up as he plummets down; a wraithlike phantom with open mouth and hollow eyes, as if fish have eaten them out. 

But maybe that person was always dead, James thinks. The body has no form, like an outline—it passes, and James keeps plummeting. He’s the only thing falling now, through absolute thick darkness. He opens his mouth and a great wash of liquid flows through him.

He remembers the strange, black-haired man with the crossbow, naked except for a loin cloth and huge feathers in his hair, standing in the middle of the road and shooting as the bus driver wrenched the wheel to get out of his way. The arrow hit James in the shoulder. The back door of the bus opened as he crashed against it. He tumbled out and into the cinote, the deep pool at the bottom of the slope.  He heard the bus hitting the rocks behind him, and the screams of the passengers.

He feels the arrow poking through his shoulder as black water rises from the depths and through his lungs.

He has somehow held onto the child, and he knows that the only chance this unknown kid had was if he could save himself and pull them both out of the water.


James rides at the back of a rickety bus that’s turning around a sharp curve on a hill above the Mexican jungle. He considers himself an old man and most of his life is gone so he is not panicking. 

The ancient vehicle veers off the highway and onto a side road. James looks out the open rear window at the small town disappearing behind him. He speaks Spanish and knows from the shouting of the other passengers that the bus is driving on the wrong route and is even on the wrong side of the road. 

James puts his forehead to the window glass as the road deteriorates to a track. The surface is hard solid mud, with a patch of brown grass running down the middle. It hasn’t rained for two months and the whole country is sucked dry.

A couple of switchbacks below them, a billowy black-haired man with feathers in his hair walks along the road. He’s carrying a bow and arrow; his head is down and he doesn’t glance up at the vehicle.

The bus bumps and lurches and James says “Wow!” because they’re far up on a hill, and there is a shimmering view of the forest below. There’s a narrow track winding down the hill, and at the bottom a round pond. It is a sparkling indigo and its white waters are blinding. It would be cool and refreshing on this searing hot day. 

He knows the pond is a cinote. James was told that the Mayans believed the cinotes were bottomless. Anyone who drowned would come out into some other, unknown world of the gods.

The Mayans used to hold human sacrifices round these in times of drought. A mortally wounded virgin would be thrown into the water, laden with jewels and other gifts for the rain god Chaac. If accepted, the virgin would sink and disappear beneath the waters, and a miracle boy-child would emerge as a gift to the world. 

Then Chaac would bring rain to replenish the land. 

The bus inches around a switchback and begins rolling faster, bouncing over ruts. James looks back to see bow-and-arrow man’s face, but it’s just a blur because of all the bouncing. The other passengers begin yelling louder. 

A young fellow runs to the front, gesticulating to the driver, who opens the door. There’s a long arm punching, and a big hand shoving. The young man crashes out the opening. He tumbles head over heels down the hill. 

Other passengers yell and cry. James hangs on to the seat in front of him, as a child with big eyes turns around, stares as the bus lurches, and smiles.

“He’s looking right through me,” thinks James, twisting his head to glance out the back window and there’s the man with the bow running to catch up. The man lifts his weapon. He fires an arrow straight at the bus. 

The arrow shoots through the open window and James lurches towards it at the last minute to protect the child. The arrow strikes him instead of the boy, right in mid shoulder as the bus tips over the edge of the road and falls straight into the cinote

James reaches over and grabs the boy. He’s amazed at his strength, especially in his arrow hit arm, which seems infused with power. Normally, he feels arthritis-stiff, and a constant ache. But suddenly he realizes that there is no blood and no pain, just the arrow end sticking out of his shoulder blade. 

The kid looks at James, and somehow the child is still smiling. “Breathe deep and then hold it!” James orders as he clutches the boy.

There’s a splash and a sinking, but one passenger has kicked out the side door and water pours in. People are diving and swimming for that exit. Everyone vanishes into the cinote, including James and the child. 


James finds himself tumbling through light gray, then dark blue, then black. He sees the bus sinking far below him and the feet of the kid disappearing upward. The child had slipped from his grip.

“I feel so heavy,” thinks James, falling after the bus; he doesn’t even think about breathing, he just falls, feeling all the weight of his long life within him. That’s all he can allow himself to do. 

“I hope that kid is safe,” he thinks. “For me, it doesn’t matter.” The strange thing is, he can still breathe, as the water turns blacker and thick like berry juice.

After a long time, he finds himself rising rather than falling. It happens gradually, as if the cinote container he’s in is being flipped over like an hourglass.

He reaches over and tries to pull the arrow out of his arm. It’s stuck, but he finds if he pushes, it shortens, and there is no pain. He shoves the end of the arrow with both hands. It vanishes into him like a needle, thin and smooth. No pain. 

Above him, the water becomes lighter, thinner. He wonders what is happening to the boy; the boy he so desperately wanted to save. Perhaps if he were younger, he may have been able to make a difference, but for the past eight years, his aches and hurts increased; arthritis everywhere, sciatica, bursitis, tennis elbow. 

Now he’s doing the Australian crawl, swimming upward like a fish. He is crawling towards the sun he knows is there. The growing light pulls him, a relentless force of brightness he doesn’t resist. 

He pushes himself forward to move faster. He knows he is in some sort of tunnel. He perceives a shining: a blue lightening sky above the dark water around him.

He pops out of the tunnel, surfacing in the center of a round pond like the cinote he left behind. He crawls out onto the shore of a place he has never seen before. There is a fountain gushing next to him; water tumbling and pouring, and across on the shore beyond, low cut grass and willow trees. The sun appears dimmer, less intense in this new land. 

He clears the water from his eyes and breathes deep. Such fresh air! He looks again. Beyond the trees there is a large, white building. He can’t believe it. It’s his old high school! The beige front, the big windows he daydreamed out of from fifty or more years ago.

He becomes aware that he’s in the park in the town where he grew up, but with one strange difference. He’s seeing everything in sepia brown, like in old photographs. He rubs his eyes, but the setting doesn’t change. 

There’s turtles sunning and nodding on a log. He wades through the shoreline mud and reeds to a park bench. He almost falls a few times. It feels like he’s learning to move on land all over again. 

He sits down under a willow and removes his shoes. They’re caked with wet clay and soaked right through. Lucky it’s warm out. Maybe April or May? James watches large brown retro vehicles roar by on the highway just above.  

“Looks like when I was a kid,” he thinks, watching the cars pass. 

As he wrings out his socks, he notices a teenage boy loping down the trail from the high school, a thin fellow in a brown sweater just like one he used to wear, hair straight and long and over his ears like James had, before it mostly fell out with the passing of time.

The teenager is holding a transistor radio to his ear, and moves fast, his mouth moving; he seems to be silently singing silently to himself. 

In shock, the old man realizes he is observing his young image, fifty years before.  

“So am I a ghost or is he a ghost?” James wonders.  

It’s a beautiful spring day, and James remembers it well. He knows that today, the loping young fellow will be confronted by two other boys seeking revenge for a minor slight. Those boys beat him up in this park, on an April day exactly like this, fifty-one years ago. A day that changed his life.  

Old James remembers the bullies’ names well, Marcus and Allen. He can’t remember what he did to deserve a beating, maybe he owed them money from a pool game, but it doesn’t matter. It began as ongoing harassment, because they thought him weak. He didn’t have the skills or courage to fight back.

After the beating, he withdrew from school, stayed at home until his parents told him to move out of the house. He never told them about the bullying, too ashamed and disappointed in himself. He took his backpack, hitchhiked to a different town and started working there. 

Without this incident, he would have finished school, had a better relationship with his parents, and perhaps not ended up a dreamer in Mexico, searching for meaning in an empty life.

He cloaked his shame with resentment against his own weak self. That resentment colored the rest of his life, and pushed him into acquiring the judo and academic strengths that helped him struggle on.

As Old James watches the boy approach, he knows that he must make something happen, rather than wait. He has to reach forward, like he did when he pulled that kid out of the bus.

He decides to warn the boy against the upcoming altercation. He understands maybe that this is all a dream, or maybe he’s already dead, on the other side of the cinote. Action indicates being alive, he needs to try action. 

For a second, he wonders how the future will be affected if he intervenes in his own life. He watches the young version of himself lope closer, along the side of the lake, looking out at nothing in particular, and as James knows, likely focused on the middle of a daydream. In those days, he always daydreamed of something more, something better.

Young James approaches and Old James rises, steps gingerly across the grass in his wet clothes and bare feet. The young man looks and raises his hand.

Old James says, “Please, give me a moment to introduce myself,” and Young James turns “Sure, say, do I know you from somewhere?”

Their voices echo back and forth like there’s a wide hollow between them split with a shimmering wall. They hear each other without sound, mind to mind. It’s one world to the other. 

Old James can see Young James’ lips moving, and behind him on the lake the painted turtles sunning. Young James moves forward as if to understand better. Old James reaches out his hand and the teenager takes it and in that moment the wall vanishes, and the hollow flaps shut. 

Old James has a second’s sense of disappearance before he snaps alert and realizes he’s now on the other side, existing in his young body, he glances once behind him at the pile of soaked clothes lying there in the shape of another man, for a second wonders where did the boy’s essence go? Where is the man? Then knows he is the teenager, and the man has gone forever.

The sky is even more blue now. The colors around James are brightening, the sepia fading, and as he views the setting, he becomes aware that things were always bright like now. A kingfisher flies from the willow tree behind him, then dives right in front, and over the pond in a flash of blue and gray. The fountain pushes water up into the sky.

James watches it, all silver and white arcs and splashes.

He starts to jog. His legs pulse, his arms push. It feels fantastic. In a different time, which is fading already, he couldn’t do more than move stiffly, with walking poles. “Walking poles?” he thinks, and then forgets what they are.

He regards the newly green poplar trees at the edge of the park and observes two boys stepping out of their car. They throw the doors shut with a loud bang and walk in his direction. One is short and squat, the other one long haired, greasy, both with sagging, distorted mouths. He watches their long, slender arms and legs bright in the sun as they rush towards him.

“Let’s fight, Jimmy,” says the first boy. James recognizes him immediately, Allen Sabourin, and with him his younger brother Marcus. 

“You spineless worm!” says Allen. 

“I don’t know if you want to do this,” answers James. He’s not sure why he speaks this way but then he feels the power of his body, and recalls how he trained it, in some future time that’s hazy already. “You have to be sure who you’re fighting,” says James. 

Allen stands two inches from James’ nose, breathing into his face. “Hit me,” he says. “I’ll let you throw the first punch.” He grins. “Then we’ll really mess you up.”

James shrugs. He looks away from Allen’s eyes, and glimpses the kingfisher diving down towards the pond, grabbing an orange fish from the water, then struggling up again with his prey. There are crocuses and daffodils poking out of the ground in waving purples and yellows. It is a calm, clear day.

“I like the beautiful flowers,” James says, and he doesn’t know why because as a kid he’s never been into sissy or old man stuff. He feels very calm. He moves to one side and starts to sidle back.

Allen lunges forward, slamming at James’ nose with his head. James turns fast, pushes, and Allen tumbles with the force of his own momentum, rolling straight along the beach towards the lake. 

Marcus runs at James, attempting a long arm punch. James leaps out of the way, his body responding quick and light, and Marcus misses.  

James gives him a push too, and Marcus falls flat on his face. The two fighters swear, recover, leap up and run at James, who turns at the last minute and both bullies crash hard into each other.  

Allen staggers onto his feet. His lip is bleeding, he’s rubbing his forehead. “How did you do that?” he says. He is wary now, as is Marcus. They stand well back, still circling.

James shrugs again. “I don’t remember,” he says. “I guess I learned it somewhere.”  

He had always daydreamed about being able to dodge like this. He considers Allen and Marcus minor inconveniences. He thinks that he should get back to the school soon. Normally, he’d skip out, keep walking. “You know, this fighting is useless. It doesn’t make sense.”

“I like fighting,” says Marcus.  He’s out of breath, holding his knees.  

James hears the fountain behind him. He turns and sees the child from the bus swirling up through the middle of it, from beneath black water, a child held by the power of the swirl, suspended and saved by its force. 

He feels lightheaded, outside of himself and almost floating as he turns back to watch Marcus and Allen step back, and then as he steps forward, they move back further. He wonders what he will do next. He is surprised at what he has accomplished already, without even trying. 

As the two antagonists circle back around him, James feels his fingers shake, his teeth trembling. He wonders where he will move now. He glances over to the grassy beach, and up the small pond.

Down the path strides a tall loose-limbed man with wild black hair, swinging a bow across his chest and wearing a loincloth. James tries to see his face, but the man’s head turns. James knows he’s seen him somewhere before. “Some kind of hippie,” he thinks. 

The man, his head still averted, strides straight up to James and pulls what feels like a sharp object out of the his shoulder, though no point or pin appears in the man’s hands.  

James feels a total relief and relaxation. He staggers back, and all the April colors fall into place around him. He glimpses a red winged blackbird in the tree above, vivid shiny wings, beak open for its call. The blackbird sings as the tall man turns, and stares straight at Marcus and Allen. 

Their arms drop to their sides, their cheeks go red, then pale. Their eyes gape, their bodies freeze. James catches a glimpse of their distorted and blotchy faces as they turn, stampeding for their car.  

“What did they see?” thinks James.

The black-haired man continues along the lake path, the back of his enormous head vanishes, his swinging bow body absorbed among the trails and trees. James never sees him again.

The boy flops in the grass and closes his eyes. He breathes in, and out, and in. So relaxed. He dozes; images his mind floating above the tiny pond, but it is a different pond, though equally circular. It’s at the bottom of a winding road snaking up a steep hillside, and it’s raining so hard the drops roil the surface of the water in a staccato thunder, a roaring waterfall sound.

Beyond the noise, James perceives a man’s body under the storm, in the centre of the cinote, its skin pounded with the rain, parts swollen up with time and heat. James’ mind floats closer to the body, crisscrossed with lines, both blue and gray, the chest around the lines leached white. 

The face is tipped back, mostly under the water. James thinks that despite the deterioration he knew that he met this person somewhere, not so long ago. The creased bald head, the long white hairs on the back of the neck. 

His dreaming mind hovers a little closer, then James sees the body’s face. There’s nothing there! He’s pulled towards that nothingness, a relentless force pulling him down, and he jumps awake to a pounding heart.

“I’m alive, I’m alive!” and then he feels the sun warming his face and knows he’s seventeen and has his whole life ahead of him.  

Suddenly he hears a desperate voice calling “Help me!”

James sees the young boy back in the pond, struggling to swim. Without hesitation James jumps in the water. He swims with young arms and youthful strength.

James grabs the arm of the child and pulls him to safety.

“Where is the bus?” the child asks.

“There is no bus,” James says. “That was from another life.”

“But there was an old man who tried to save me.” The kid looks around. “This doesn’t look like Mexico. Where are we?”

“We’re where we both belong,” James says. “You are a gift to the world.”

It takes some minutes, but eventually James rises, and walks back along the path towards the school on the hill, holding the child’s hand. 

He will return to class. He’ll go home to his parents tonight, so relieved he’s not that body in the pond beneath the rain.